Chapter Twenty: The Dream.
Morning sunlight crept across Mark’s pillow, and onto his face. As the brightness glared orange behind his closed lids, he grunted and began to emerge from a deep sleep.
He surfaced gently, his brain untangling reality from dreams, then his stomach lurched and his eyes snapped open as he remembered the events of the previous day.
He groaned and rolled onto his back, shading his eyes with his arm. Images of his mother falling from the balcony were interspersed with memories of the leather-clad women and flashes of the journey back to Almha. His heart ached, and the feelings of helplessness and loss made him want to roll over and bury his head in the covers.
Then he remembered the dream.
“Don’t fret, Oisín,” a musical voice had said, “Bree Redhair is safe. We translated her to our heimtír to save her from the Marforí.”
“Who are you?” he had asked.
“We are the felkynd.”
“Can you bring her back to me?”
“No. She must stay here until you have traveled between the tírs and completed your quest.”
“What makes you think I can do it?”
“You are a Taevnor. You can use sidhs to navigate the dead zones between tírs where time and space have no meaning. Not even the felkynd can do that.”
“I can't do that! I don't even know what you're talking about.”
“You can; you just don't know it yet. You already have the capability, but you will meet someone who will tutor you in the ways of the Taevnorí”
“We do not know that. We only know you will meet them when you cross over to save your father.”
“Do you have him too?”
“No, but he is alive in a different tír.”
“Can you help me?”
“We will help as much as we can, but this is your burden.”
“What do I have to do?”
“Your friends already know. They will help you, but they need your help too, especially Niamh Goldenhair.”
“Why, what does Niamh ..?”
“It will become clear. Oisín, I have one last important message: Be careful of Del Forgill. We do not trust him.”
“He has his own agenda. We cannot be sure of his loyalties.”
“But how can I…?”
As the voice had faded, Mark had had the strangest image of Niamh’s cat Mira sitting on his bed covers, dissolving to nothingness.
Niamh needs my help!
Mark jumped out of bed, grabbing his cell from the bedside locker. He dialed Niamh’s number.
To his surprise, he could hear the muffled ringtone coming from within the house. He opened his bedroom door and followed the jangly tone downstairs. Just as he reached the living room, it went to voicemail.
From within the living-room, he could hear Niamh’s voice, the words punctuated with sobs and sniffles. He entered and stopped dead in the doorway. Niamh was sitting on the sofa, her back to him, crying. Del Forgill sat beside her, his arm around her shoulders.
Mark rushed into the room. “What are you doing to her?” he demanded, his fists bunched.
Forgill looked over his shoulder and put his finger to his lips. He stood up and steered Mark out of the living room into the kitchen.
Mark glared at him.
“Calm down, young cavalier, and allow me to explain. Niamh asked me to drive her home last night. When we got there we found the place abandoned; all the lights on. Someone – the Marforí, presumably - opened a sidh in the wall of the Kinnear's living room – tore a circular hole right through it. There were drops of blood leading from the armchair to the hole. The rest is guesswork, but it looks like the Marforí took Niamh’s parents through the sidh to God-knows-where.”
“There’s more. There was a police patrol car parked outside. I think Niamh’s parents had reported her missing again. The two officers were still in the car. The interior looked like an abattoir. Their heads were missing.”
“Was it a man and a woman?”
Forgill nodded. “I think so.”
Mark felt a twinge of remorse about how he’d spoken to Detective Kelly and Officer Ryan. They’d only been doing their jobs. And now their jobs – and this mess he was caught up in – had cost them their lives.
Forgill continued: “That’s a typical Marforí technique: Open a sidh around the neck of a victim and translate just the head. Very nasty.”
Mark’s head was spinning. “Why should I believe you? Why should I believe any of this? You seem to be up to your neck in this, and I don’t know if I should trust you.”
“Niamh was there, Mark. She can verify everything I’ve said. Now, I can’t make you trust me, and I don’t blame you if you don’t, but I assure you, I mean you and your friends no harm.
“Now, I think you should go and speak to Niamh; she needs you.”
“He’s in the study on the computer researching a mansion on somewhere called Ashtown Lane.”
“Huh? How'd he log in? He doesn’t know the password. How did he even get into the study?”
“Ferdia already knew the code to the study – something to do with some comic book page, unlikely as that sounds. As regards the computer, I don’t think passwords are any impediment to that young man. If he wants to use someone’s computer, he’ll find a way to get in. He is a deeply strange character. If I'm honest, he unnerves me more than anyone I’ve met in a very long time, and that’s saying something. Are you sure he’s only sixteen?”
“So now you’re trying to make me distrust Ferdia, is that it?”
Forgill sighed, and in a resigned voice said: “Go and comfort Niamh, son. I’ve been up with her all night. I’m going to see how your teenage man-robot is getting on.”